Given that I focused so much on the topic of your immune system and the flu shot last month — I thought you’d appreciate further commentary by Dr. Stephan Chaney, PhD.
Dr. Chaney is someone who’s perspective I trust and often share.
The swine flu vaccine will be available soon and many of you are asking me three questions:
Is it safe? Is it effective? Should I get swine flu
There is a lot of hype on both sides of the issue, so
let me give you some straight talk about safety and
effectiveness so that you can use to make up your own
mind about whether you want to get a swine flu shot.
Let’s talk about safety first.
You may have heard reports that both the British
Health Protection Agency and the US Centers For Disease
control have sent out letters to neurologists in
Britain and the US asking them to look out for an
increase in a brain disorder called Guillian-Barre
Syndrome – and to notify their respective governments
of all cases of this disease that they diagnose in
patients that have received the swine flu shot.
Just in case you are not intimately acquainted with
Guillian-Barre Syndrome, it is a disease that attacks
the lining of the nerves, leaving them unable to
transmit signals to the muscles. This can cause partial
paralysis and, if it affects the lungs, can be fatal.
Now that sounds downright scary. But let me tell you
the rest of the story.
The concern of the British and US governments is based
solely on the fact that a similar swine flu vaccine
killed more people than it helped in the US in 1976.
Shortly after swine flu vaccinations started in 1976
people started coming down with Guillian-Barre
Syndrome. By the time vaccinations were halted 10 weeks
latter, 500 people had developed the disease and 25
people had died – more than were killed by the virus
It was estimated that one in 80,000 people who were
given that swine flu shot developed Guillian-Barre
Syndrome, compared to the one in a million who develop
the disease when given most seasonal flu shots.
However, I want to emphasize that there is no direct
evidence that the current swine flu shot increases the
risk of Guillian-Barre Syndrome more than the regular
seasonal flu shots. The British and US governments
simply view their warning letters to neurologists as a
reasonable precaution under the circumstances.
In short, the risk of developing Guillian-Barre
Syndrome or some other serious complication
(miscarriages and sudden death are the other
complications of most flu vaccines) from the swine flu
shot is probably very, very small. It may be no greater
than the one in a million chance of developing the
disease that is associated with most flu vaccines – but
it is not zero.
Now let’s turn to the issue of effectiveness. There are
several things that you should know about the
effectiveness of the swine flu shot.
In the first place, there has been an active debate in
the scientific community as to whether one shot or two
shots will be required to give adequate protection
against the swine flu.
Some scientists still think that two shots would be the
better option. However, stocks of swine flu vaccine are
limited so the recommendation is probably going to be
for one shot so that as many people can be immunized as
Secondly, you should know that the swine flu vaccine
offers no protection against the seasonal flu and vice
versa. Since both strains of flu will be around this
fall & winter you need to be vaccinated against both if
you really want to avoid the flu.
Finally, there is an interesting age distribution in
regard to the susceptibility to the swine flu. It turns
out that it is the young people who are most
susceptible to the swine flu.
Those of us who are over 50 were apparently exposed to
something similar to the current swine flu virus in the
past, so we have some residual immunity.
That’s important because it turns out that the swine
flu virus is no more deadly than the usual seasonal flu
virus. What that means is that the age group that is
most susceptible to the swine flu is also the age group
for which the swine flu is most likely to be merely a 3
to 5 day inconvenience.
The bottom line is that most immunizations make great
sense from a public health perspective and for high
risk individuals, wh
ich is why they are so strongly
supported by the medical community.
However, for healthy individuals with strong immune
systems and no pre-existing diseases the risk-benefit
ratios are a not so clear cut. Sometimes the risks
can outweigh the benefits.
That brings me to the last question – should you get a
swine flu shot?
If you are a healthy individual that is a very personal
decision, and I won’t presume to make it for you. I’ve
just given you some facts that you may not have known
about to ponder as you make that decision.
For people who are at risk for developing severe
complications from the swine flu itself (young
children, pregnant women, the elderly, people with
compromised immune systems, and people with pre-
existing diseases like diabetes) this is a decision
that you should make in consultation with your
To your health!
Dr. Stephen Chaney, PhD
P. S. I have personally never taken a flu shot. I prefer to use a holistic approach, including quality nutritional supplements to strengthen my immune system.